Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The Runaway

My older girl is Little Miss Confidence. This is more than just a little bit surprising, considering her gene pool. It's amazing, at times difficult to relate to, sometimes it's useful because I send her to do the things I don't like to do. She's an inspiration for me oftentimes. Who wants to be outconfidenced by a four year old after all?

Other times, it's a heavy load to carry. Especially when you find yourself on a wide beach with an expanse of mudflats and no trace of your 4 year old.

We've done the drill - in calm explanation, in panicked raised voices, when I had feared for the worst. Yet still, she will run off. Not to spite, not to hide, just because she's confident to find her way. Yesterday she made her way to find my travel companions. She didn't find them and when I got there, there was no sign of her. But you know, she knows what to do: she went back to where we had parted, told the people who had done some felting with her that she couldn't find her mummy and waited. And of course, I came back there first, just in case she'd done that. I was full of fear and pride at the same time, and we had a very emotional moment.

With this emotion still very present, when I lost sight of her today (I'd gone back to fetch the camera), even knowing she was well looked after, did not calm my nerves. I walked for at least an hour and could not make out her shape, or the shape of the group I was looking for. Every minute I tried hard to remain calm and enjoy the beauty of the day and the location, there at the water's edge in the balmy pools of the low tide, she was with my friend and her husband, a better than usual 2 adults to 3 kids ratio; she was with her friend who she plays with intensely and who doesn't give her reason to run off, plus the newly reinforced rule no. 1 for the beach (do not run off at all, it's at least 20 times worse than pulling hair) was still very present. I knew she wouldn't run off, I knew she would be safe.

Yet as I walked the shoreline of the ever expanding landscape in front of me, I felt very small and helpless, and lonely.

Of course she was fine. Though she HAD wondered where on earth her Mama had run off to...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Postcard from Föhr - heatwave

It was "only" 24 degrees, but if you live in Scotland, this is hot.
Cubling asked to go home because she was too hot.
Luckily there's the sea and water and so we dug holes and castles, bathtubs and watt worm houses.

Any hotter and I'm positively seeking the shade.

This is not a child dancing, but trying to avoid stepping on the lines created by the watt worm. Pretty futile undertaking and thus she does not like the watt at all. Thanks to the Jugendhelfer (youth helpers) we made our own felted watt worms, then made a watt worm house at the beach. "Don't look down, look ahead only", helps too. We're getting there. It would be a shame to not explore this amazing tidal landscape for fear of watt worms which actually take flight with the water.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Postcard from Föhr - Watt/mudflats

And then, the sea disappears and a new world appears.
Cubling doesn't like it yet, but we're working on it.

Some of the photos remind me of the Norwegian/Scottish artist whose name I don't know. He put statutes of people into the beach in Norway and Scotland, some half covered in the sand. It looks cunningly like these photos.
Nature imitating art?

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Postcard from Föhr - drawn in sand

If Föhr is one thing, it's the perfect place for children. Everyone cycles, the littlests go in trailers, and cars have an island wide speed restriction of 20m/h. There are endless activities for children, crafts, storytelling, walks, puppet shows. The sea meets the beach, the dunes meet the woodlands which are interspersed with picturesque reed covered houses. There is no litter, but lots of time. Fresh rolls for breakfast, local produce, a Sunday fishmarket and two yarn shops (one even has yarn from local sheeps, locally spun, locally dyed, locally everything).

The beach, a wonderland of high and low tide (you can walk the 5 miles to the next island at low tide), countless shells, digging running, exploring.
Today, the big kids decided to draw on the sand. A sun full of rays, a person, and a tree with lots of leaves. As for Snowflake, she wants to stand and walk. Alas she can't. The frustration, especially of seeing a 15 month old, a match in size, walking. Patience monkey, patience.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Bilingual Playgroups work. Really.

Roxana Soto of Spanglish Baby posted today about how successful and powerful a Spanish playgroup has proven to be. Her post reminded me that it's high time I give our own playgroup, the Kinderclub Glasgow a thumbs up.

I was more than sceptical when we started attending once I went on maternity leave. It's a large playgroup, with a minimum of 20 mums (and sometimes even a dad) and about 30 children attending. At first, I felt like the newcomer, the only person who didn't know anyone on the playground. Which, in fact, was far from the truth (I did know some people and just like me, there were other newcomers as I soon found out). My older daughter is reluctant to engage with large groups of children and it took months to see her interact with any of the kids. The parents usually have a chat over coffee and cake, which was lovely but I didn't see how this supported my child's bilingualism.

Almost one year on, I've more than changed my attitude. First up, the impact of attending a space where there are people, real people, who speak German is not to be underestimated. So far, Cubling heard me speak German to her, and English to everyone else. It was an oddity that I spoke German and there was no reason for her to follow suit. Suddenly she realised there were other people like me, and children who speak German too. It took a while to sink in, but the importance of this realisation is not to be underestimated (as testified by Cubling's reaction when she saw a German DVD that wasn't animated but had children speaking in German: "Mami, Mami, diese Kinder sind sprechen deutsch!!!").

Secondly, we made new friends. Smaller play dates have been organised, and on the days off, we often arrange smaller meetups too. No doubt that play dates in the homes of children work best - somehow a German space is as important as German people in it. Cubling knows which house is German speaking and which house isn't and she'll now switch and stick to the relevant language much more than ever. Just two play dates with one family markedly improved her fluency and willingness to speak German.

Thirdly, we had fun. I soon realised that Cubling wasn't all too keen to play with the other kids so I spent more dedicated one-to-one time with her than on other days, and this one-to-one time was definitely German as I didn't feel apprehensive to speak to my daughter in a language that those around me don't understand (as may happen at other play groups). It's the most natural environment for us to speak German and dedicated focused and engaged play time with your child is worth its weight in gold to support the minority language. We also had fun at cultural events of course.

Forthly, even the short group singalong at the end provided me with much needed singing material in German. The songs sung at the Kinderclub have become our favourites so that more fun time is spent in German at home too.

Finally, without doubt, Cubling loves going to the Kinderclub. Tired of nursery, not one to enjoy being at home, the Kinderclub is as popular as our weekly Nurture in Nature day. There has been many a Monday where I wasn't up for the treck to the other side of the city, but Cubling insisted that she wanted to go to the Kinderclub. So while I may not get what she likes so much about the Kinderclub (she doesn't play much with the other kids, and there's nothing she wouldn't also do at nursery), there's certainly no doubt in her mind that it's a fab thing to attend. And creating positive associations with German culture is simply the best way to keep the motivation going.

So bilingual playgroups in general and the Kinderclub in particular definitely have my tried, tested and approved badge.

(As have trips to German islands in the north sea with German only speaking kids... It's quite astounding. Must do more often)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Postcard from Föhr #1-4

Almost a week without internet connection, but I'm back online and can finally start posting virtual postcards from the north sea island of Föhr where we currently stay. There's a bit of catchup to be done, so here are some first impressions.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sunshine in Scotland or can we really go Solar?

For well over a year, I've been trying to get my head around greening our home in relation to energy consumption. We've done the obvious stuff to save energy - low energy lightbulbs, switching off, not leaving things on standby, wearing jumpers in winter (though we have to do that anyway as our house won't get warm), loft insulation (haha, half of the loft is not accessible, which kind of means that the impact wasn't, how should I put it, awe-inspiring). We're a pretty bad household only in relation to leaving computers on all day, ahem.

And I've explored every possible renewable energy avenue. It's not easy. My mind threatens to explode anytime I look into it. There's the Energy Saving Trust which in theory is a great one stop shop. They have helped a lot to be fair, but I still find it difficult to actually get my questions answered. First there was an online questionnaire, lots of phone calls, eventually someone came to the house and did the same questionnaire again. We got a letter back that basically said there's not much else we can do. Still no look at the roof or boiler system to see if there was an option for solar panels. The promise of free loft insulation evaporated in the 8 week waiting time - we got our energy provider to do it instead and they were quick.

So we headed the marketing card of a private company. Finally, someone had a look at the roof, and is talking business. Just that obviously, they have an agenda. They want to sell.

Our situation is tricky. We live in Glasgow, which isn't great for solar panels as you can imagine. On the plus side, our roof faces south and is mostly unobstructed. It is small and old, with a nailsick slate roof. Apparently we have space for 12 panels, and the investment should pay back in 10 years or so.

Or that's what the solar power salesperson says. They also say they can install the panels and that they can be moved if we need a new roof. At what cost, they can't say.

I'd loved to speak to someone in Glasgow who has had solar panels installed, to see if they do what they promise. If it's worthwhile, if it adds value to the house in case we need to move and don't lose our investment.

Then there's the ethical issue of the way renewables are subsidised. Because, our feed in tariff (that's the money we get back for renewable energy we use and the energy we don't use and feed into the grid) is subsidised by those who don't have renewables. It works like this: Energy companies pay me, as one with solar panels, for every solar power I use. That's how, over the space of 10 years or so, I get my investment back. They also pay me for energy created that I don't use. The money comes from energy charged to those who don't have solar panels, which usually means those without the money to invest or those who live in flats/social housing. Basically, I'm taking from people who are more likely to struggle with their energy bills. Hm. The system also encourages energy use during day time hours. While you get more for every unit fed back into the grid, you save roughly 11p extra for every unit you use (because you don't only get paid for your usage but also don't pay the unit from your normal energy provider). This means that people will be likely to use more, rather than less, energy.
Which maybe, just maybe is kind of ok if it's solar.

So here's the maths:
every solar panel can produce 205watts maximum. 12 panels will produce 2,200kw per year.
For every kwh used that comes from your panels, you receive 42.3p from your energy supplier, plus you save 14p which is the average charge for that unit if you had used it from your normal supply.
For every kwh fed back into the grid, you receive 45.3p, 3p more than if you used it for your own energy needs

12 panels, for our small 3 bedroom house (it's really a 2 bedroom house) should generate about half of our electricity needs.
Investment should be repaid in roughly 10-12 years, the scheme runs for 25 years, which means that there's a 10% return on your money (more than any other investment scheme) over 25 years.
You will need to change your energy consumption habits - you will have to try and use when it's daylight to get maximum savings.

As with everything, there's variables and no guarantee. For instance, I'm not sure if we can realistically use most of our energy during the day. I don't like to run electrical appliances when I'm out, say at work or shopping. I have no idea how rainy days or the 3 trees that may obstruct the roof in the winter months will affect the performance of the panels. Will we have enough panels to make it worthwhile? Will it increase the value of the house so that even if we moved, we'd still get our investment back?

So, after a year of research, there are still many questions. But we're getting closer to some answers at least.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Greenbank Gardens

Last weekend, we became the ultimate middle class family. We joined the National Trust for Scotland. £12 to get into Greenbank Gardens was just too hefty for a day visit, so we were coerced to join and made a mission out of trying to visit as many NTS places in the next 12 months as possible.

I'm quite looking forward to it actually.

The inauguration at Greenbank Gardens was definitely a success with the girls. Lots of smiles, and even some sunshine, mad running about on a lawn that felt like softest carpet, playing hide and seek, eating of grass and flowers by a certain 8 month old and climbing on a massive tree that the recent storm (hurricane?) had uprooted. I resisted the plant sale, which was wise, I can barely find space to plant out the veg I've grown from seed this year

Outdoor Challenge Monday? This wasn't a challenge really.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

So there's no poverty here?

Last night saw the airing of the heartbreaking, infuriating, tear jerking, scandal uncovering and shocking documentary Poor Kids. If you haven't seen it yet, please please do, you can still watch it in the next 7 days. It tells the story of growing up in poverty from those doing the growing up in poverty. The kids are talking, it's their story and they have more wisdom than most of us.

The documentary did so many things that are often lacking. Whenever you mention the term child poverty in connection with the UK, you get more or less the same reaction. People with no actual experience of what it means to live in poverty blame those living in poverty for their situation. Surely, they're on drink, fags, drugs and that's why they're poor. Get a job, get off your backside, take responsibility, don't have kids.

Just that, you know, it's not true. There aren't enough jobs to go around and even if you have a job you may end up in poverty (half of the children growing up in poverty actually have a parent in work). Above all, it's NEVER the child's fault, so for the sake of our next generation, stop blaming the parents (who for the most part don't deserve being blamed) and do something about the real causes of poverty.

Then there's the flat denial. We're a rich country, there's no real poverty. You find real poverty in developing countries, not here, I hear the choir of voices. Well, yes and no. Of course, you'll find more severe poverty in other countries. It's still not right that children should grow up going regularly without food or having to breath in mould that cause asthma attacks. It's also not right that children growing up in poverty have eff all chances to turn the corner and achieve in life. A generation back, it was doable, now it's almost impossible. The film made it more than clear though that children in the UK grow up in poverty right now, a poverty that for the richer half is unimaginable. It shocked, and hopefully this will translate in some engagement with the issue, campaigning, and ultimately change.

Thirdly, Jezza Neumann, the director, truly gave a voice to children experiencing poverty, his own blog post elaborates on how the documentary was made. The kids were intelligent, articulate and strong, and great care was taken not to exploit their situation, and make sure they and their parents were happy with what and how things were presented. For children who are already picked on at school for not having decent clothes to wear or for smelling of mould, it is so important that a documentary like this doesn't add to the bullying that's already happening. And I think they came out of it stronger, and I'm sure their classmates will now look up to them, amazed at how well they cope with their situation.

Finally, Poor Kids cannot but start a debate about poverty. This is extremely important because in an  environment where poverty is heavily stigmatised and there is a culture blaming those experiencing it, and holding on to the erroneous belief that every body is born with equal chances, poverty is more hidden than ever. Which in turn means that tackling poverty is much more difficult: It's unseen (those who experience it try to hide it), or people don't want to see it (blaming it on individual choice made by those experiencing it rather than shortcomings of society).

More than ever, it's vital that issues around poverty, and child poverty in particular, are debated in the open. What makes it difficult, and the undertaking of this documentary so laudable, is that it's hard to present poverty without victimising or stigmatising the people portrayed, and one has to be mroe than wary (do I need to mention "The Scheme?"). No child wants to be portrayed and ousted as "poor". And, children growing up in poverty in deprived areas may not even see themselves as poor, because, after all, our definition of poor always relates to someone less well off than our own selves.

So, when I started to work with some children in an area with multiple deprivation, and I asked what was good about the area, the answer was "there's no poverty here". In the same breath, the children told me how their flats were mouldy and drafty, overcrowded and how there were no jobs locally. How whenever it rained, the water would come in through windows that don't shut properly and how it was freezing cold in winter.

So there's no poverty here?

If you want to do something about ending child poverty in the UK, visit Save the Children who focus all their efforts in their UK work on ending child poverty right here right now, as part of the No Child Born to Die campaign.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

10 German action rhymes/Singspiele

Sometimes, being an expat mum means things are a bit upside down, or inside out. Maybe it's to do with my age showing, but when Cubling was born, could I remember any German children's songs? Nope, I didn't get beyond Alle meine Entchen. Knowing how great singing is to support language development (and generally have fun, it's not all about learning y'know), I religiously went to our local bounce and rhyme session, and found myself more proficient in English nursery rhymes than German ones.

The German Kinderclub has finally given back some balance in the children's song department. I can tell from both my children's enthusiasm that action rhymes win over just songs, so I thought it would be a good idea to put my favourite German action songs together, for me and maybe others to have them in one place as reference. It's only recently that I discovered German versions of English action rhymes (or vice versa, I have no idea which came first, and does it matter?) and they are particularly popular with my 4-year old. The great thing is that if you know the English melody, you're sorted, i.e. a great resource to parents who wish to add some German culture without necessarily being German themselves.

If you have a selection of even 10 songs, it's a great component for any German playgroup, big or small. I've added links to youtube videos for help with the melody of the songs that don't exist in English where possible.

Finally, I'd like to tag my bilingual blogging buddies to pick 10 songs in their language that may or may not be similar to English. I'd love to sing Spanish, French and Gaelic songs to my girls for a change!

So then, can I hear anyone singing yet?

1. Wenn du froehlich/gluecklich bist dann klatsche in die Hand - this is the same song as If you're happy and you know it, sung to the same melody.
Wenn Du glücklich bist, dann klatsche in die Hand (klatsch, klatsch)!
Wenn Du glücklich bist, dann klatsche in die Hand (klatsch, klatsch)!
Zeig mir, wenn Du bei mir bist, wie Dir so zumute ist.
Wenn Du glücklich bist, dann klatsche in die Hand (klatsch, klatsch)!
Wenn Du wütend bist, dann stampfe mit dem Fuß (stampf, stampf)!
Wenn Du wütend bist, dann stampfe mit dem Fuß (stampf, stampf)!
Zeig mir, wenn Du bei mir bist, wie Dir so zumute ist.
Wenn Du wütend bist, dann stampfe mit dem Fuß (stampf, stampf)!
Wenn Du traurig bist, dann seufze doch einmal (seufz, seufz)!
Wenn Du traurig bist, dann seufze doch einmal (seufz, seufz)!
Zeig mir, wenn Du bei mir bist, wie Dir so zumute ist.
Wenn Du traurig bist, dann seufze doch einmal (seufz, seufz)
(As you sing, imitate all the actions)
Ich nehme eine Leiter und stell sie an den Apfelbaum
und klettre immer weiter, so hoch, man sieht mich kaum.
Und pflücke und pflücke, mal über mir, mal unter mir
mein ganzes Körbchen voll.

Dann steige ich immer weiter und halt mich an den Zweigen fest,

und setz mich ganz gemütlich dort oben ins Geäst.
Und schaukele, und schaukele, di-wipp, di-wapp, di-wipp, di-wapp
und fall auch nicht herab.
Kricks, kracks - plumps.

3. Krokodil aus Afrika: a great song to go from child to child (or child to mum/dad etc), best sung in groups but we have lots of fun on our own too. Add a name to the blanks. Imitate mouth of crocodile with both arms, and draw a box in the air at appropriate point. Another favourite of ours, Cubling will sing this endlessly to the delight of Snowflake.
Was kommt denn da? Was kommt denn da?
Ein Krokodil aus Afrika!
Es sperrt sein Maul auf, es sperrt sein Maul auf
und sagt: ”Ich fress die/den _____ auf!”
Aber _____ die/der sagt ”Nein! Krokodil, lass das sein!
Denn sonst sperr ich dich in eine Kiste ein!”
Aber _____ die/der sagt ”Nein! Krokodil, lass das sein!
Denn sonst sperr ich dich in eine Kiste ein!”
4. Das gerade-Lied (our favourite) each adjective has an action: Gerade - hold arms out horizontally, schief - change arms to diagonal position etc, the more theatre, the more the kids will love it. And you HAVE to shout out the last word!
Das ist grade,
das ist schief,
das ist hoch
und das ist tief.
Das ist dunkel,
das ist hell,
das ist langsam,
das ist schnell.

Das ist groß
und das ist klein,
das mein Arm
und das mein Bein.
Das sind Haare,
das ist Haut,
das ist leise,
das ist LAUT.

5. Haeschen in der Grube: all children lie down in the middle pretending to sleep. When the song comes to Haeschen huepf! All children wake up and hop. Even my 8 months old starts hopping already!
Häschen in der Grube
Saß und schlief, saß und schlief
Armes Häschen bist du krank,
Daß du nicht mehr hüpfen kannst
Häschen hüpf, Häschen hüpf,

6. Backe backe Kuchen - quite a simple one, and all you do is clap the rhythm and imitate shoving the cake into the oven. And I only found out recently that "gel" means yellow...

Backe, backe, Kuchen,
Der Bäcker hat gerufen!
Wer will gute Kuchen backen,
Der muß haben sieben Sachen:
Eier und Schmalz,
Butter und Salz,
Milch und Mehl,
Safran macht den Kuchen gel! 

7. Die Raeder vom Bus - same as the wheels on the bus
Die Räder vom Bus, die gehen rundherum,
rundherum, rundherum,
Die Räder vom Bus, die gehen rundherum,
durch die ganze Stadt!
Die Türen vom Bus, die gehen auf und zu...
Die Fenster… hoch und runter…
Die Wischer… hin und her…
Die Hupe… die macht “tut tut tut” …
Der Fahrer… der sagt: “Nach hinten gehn!”...
Die Babys im Bus, die machen: ”Wäh wäh wäh”...
Die Kinder… : “Blah blah blah”…
Die Mamis… : “psst, psst, psst”…
Die Omas im Bus, die sagen: “Lass sie doch!”…

8. Der Gruene Frosch im Gras - same as little green frog
Mh Hä macht der grüne Frosch im Gras
Mh Hä macht der grüne Frosch,
mh Hä macht der grüne Frosch im Gras
anstatt Quak quak quak quak.
Und die Fische singen schubidubidu, schubidubidu, schubidubidu
Und die Fische singen schubidubidu,
doch der kleine grüne Frosch macht mh hä.

9. Die Winzig Kleine Spinne - incy wincy spider / itsy bitsy spider
Die winzig kleine Spinne kroch auf den Wasserhahn.
Dann kam der Regen
und warf sie aus der Bahn.
Dann kam die Sonne
und trocknet's wieder auf,
und die winzig kleine Spinne kroch wiederum hinauf.
10. Bruederchen komm tanz mit mir (we sing it as Schwesterchen for obvious reasons) - imitate all the actions.
Brüderchen, komm tanz mit mir,
beide Hände reich’ ich dir.
Einmal hin, einmal her,
rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Mit den Händen klatsch, klatsch, klatsch,
mit den Füßen patsch, patsch, patsch.
Einmal hin, einmal her,
rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Mit den Köpfchen nick, nick, nick,
mit den Fingern tick, tick, tick.
Einmal hin, einmal her,
rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Mit dem Näschen zupf, zupf, zupf,
mit dem Öhrchen rupf, rupf, rupf.
Einmal hin, einmal her,
rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.
Ei, das hast du fein gemacht,
ei, das hätt ich nicht gedacht.
Einmal hin, einmal her,
rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Noch einmal das schöne Spiel,
weil es mir so gut gefiel.
Einmal hin, einmal her,
rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Schooling Choices

For the past 4 years, I've been going around in mental circles about education choices. It's a real dilemma: on the one hand, I believe in comprehensive education which, in an ideal world, should cater for every child.

And then there's the Glasgow Steiner School, which is a real alternative. A school not focusing on achieving, but on letting the child develop their own interests, in a holistic way. The more I read about the Steiner approach to education, the more excited I get, the more I wish that my children should have an opportunity to go down this route.

Yet, it's a private school. I'm not even yet considering whether or not we could afford it or if it's logistically possible. One thing at a time.

How can I justify rejecting comprehensive education when I believe in it's value as an equaliser in society? Of course it's not a perfect system, and if anything, it should be changed from within. And don't I know that school is just a minor element in the learning journey of a child, accounting for only 17% of learning (the rest is made up by input from parents, family, community and peer group). Does it really matter which school my girls go to?

And yet. Waldorf education. All natural materials. Learning by exploring. Child led. Holistic. Respectful to other human beings and the environment. Gardening, knitting, cooking, outdoor play on the curriculum.

Oh my, I'm tempted. Not by ensuring my children do well and will be high achievers, but by instilling a love of learning in them and giving them the opportunity to learn life skills rather than how to pass exams.

Two ideologies having a tug of war in my head.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Review: BedTed and Love One Give One

:::Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, however all views expressed are mine.:::

With Snowflake deciding that today was the day to start crawling, we're truly out of the newborn baby stage, even if it only seems minutes ago that she was born. When I was contacted by BedTed to let my readers know about their products and their Love One Give One campaign and had a look at their stock, I was quite taken by their classic designs and practical nursery bedding range. I wished I'd known about them before Snowflake was born because if there was one thing we were short of initially, it was nursery bedding. Strange, I know, considering it was our second!

As far as the product range goes, BedTed has all that you can ask for in the world of nursery bedding. There's your cellular blankets, fitted sheets of different descriptions, and a beautiful themed baby bedding sets range; all made to above industry average standards, giving all their bedding a luxurious feel as the website explains.

What's best though is that for every blanket sold, BedTed gives one to a charity who will pass the blankets on to children going without, to give them some comfort in difficult times. The campaign goes by the name of Love One Give One - and it's a lovely gesture to give a bit of comfort to a child who has little comforts to his or her own. In practice it works like this: once you receive the blanket you've bought at BedTed, you will be given a code which you then enter on the BedTed website to send off the blanket to currently one of two charities. You can also suggest a receiving charity - so if you know of a charity who could make good use of baby blankets, why not let BedTed know.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

What do you miss now that you have children?

A quick question. A question that got me thinking and re-assess the watershed that becoming a mother is. The question in question was "what to you miss now that you have children." Talk about opening a can of worms. However, as much as I knew that there are things I miss, I also instantly thought that it's not all loss, that four years on and looking back, it's been a process of adjustment.

Yes, my life is very different to what it was. I used to go out every weekend, love to party, go to lots of gigs and I was some sort of exercise junkie - hop classes (aerobics), running and hillwalking took up rather a lot of my time. Now, I'm sedentary mostly, if I have a large glass of wine it's a lot and I feel tipsy and exercise... Oh I know I should do more.

The loss was felt when I first became a mum because it was such a radical and sudden change. It was not when it happened again, although there was a certain degree of readjustment from one to two. As someone put it, you "grieve" for the lifestyle lost first time around, when the change is so massive, but with the second child, it's not so bad really.

So, the answer varies. Back then, 4 years ago, I missed a lot. Hot tea, a good night's sleep (or any sleep longer than 2 hours), being able to socialise, go to gigs, to the cinema, for a drink, getting drunk, being able to go to the loo by myself, being able to leave a room without a baby starting to scream, being in control of what I do when. My plot, which I had to give up because Cubling would not let me do even 5 minutes worth of gardening without demanding my attention. I craved my return to work when she was only 5 months because I felt "normal" again. It was a control thing, being in control of what you do and being able to see things through from start to finish, being productive and able to look back on the day knowing that you've actually done something.

Now, 4 years later, I don't miss any of these things. I'm ok spending evenings at home and have filled them with knitting, blogging and watching DVDs. The only two things that I still miss is being in control of what I do, and me time. I'd love to be able to plan my day and just do it. Say, to clean this or tidy that, have the 2 hours it takes and be done. With two kids? No chance. The other thing I miss is being able to go to courses / workshops that interest me. Baby Snowflake still isn't very settled in the evening and needs me to settle, so any event scheduled in the evening is off limits, as are full day workshops in permaculture, upcycling and Cybermummy.

Of course, second time mum also knows that this is temporary, that in two year's time, there will be time and more control. All in all, it's easier with two than it was with one because they love each other and are already each other's best playmates. It's easier to do many chores with two than it was with one (admittedly high need) baby.

I do miss time just for myself. But not enough to demand it. Time spent with the whole family is still always more desireable than doing something just by myself.

And I surprised myself, answering the question, how far the process of adjustment has taken me. How rejection of my "plight" has been replaced by finding pleasures in the small print of my life. The DVD rental that has replaced trips to the cinema, the newfound love of the radio that has replaced my love for listening to music, the ability to be happy with the tiniest gardening successes rather than being overwhelmed by ambition to do more than can be fitted in.

Of course there are also the moments when I'm close to losing it when it proves impossible to get everyone out of the house before 11am, when I feel that I didn't do anything in a whole day, when I feel frustrated that I don't have the time to follow up on interests and ambitions. When every day seems forever filled with laundry, making food and endlessly trying to keep on top of things that I mostly don't enjoy doing.

I wonder if becoming a mother later in life makes it harder because it's more difficult to adjust, or if you accept more easily that you've travelled, explored, had fun for so many years that now you can give back. Nothing prepares you for motherhood, but whatever it brings, we are able to adjust and rearrange our lives.

What do you miss most since becoming a parent?

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Launch

Today was quite a special day. It was my first home party for Barefoot Books, the launch party as an Ambassador (which I guess is a fancy word for being a salesperson). It was supported by Moira Lumby, who is an experienced Scottish Ambassador which made everything rather easy. Slowly but surely the way it all works is starting to make sense, and emerging questions have been answered so that from now on I feel that I know roughly what I'm doing.

We spent the last week reading a lot of stories from the books, for me to get a bit more familiar with the vast stock, much to the delight of Cubling, who would read stories all day long if that was an option.

I'd invited both some friends and local parents because I'm quite keen to connect with people very local to me and this seemed like a welcome opportunity. It wasn't about selling, just about having an opportunity to get to know other parents of young children living in the neighbourhood, because after years of living in anonymous communities, I personally would like to know my neighbours. Interestingly though, nobody came whom I didn't know already - so maybe this invitation of strangers was a tad out of people's comfort zone. Of course it may have other reasons, people may have been at work/on holiday/enjoying the fabulous sunshine we had after a month of daily rain.

So it was a comfortable small party, where almost everyone knew everybody else.

What I like about this new little venture is that it's as small or as big as you want to make it. It's going to be a hobby, an opportunity to raise funds for some groups or charities I'd like to support, a way to connect to new people or a different way to connect to existing people. I'm not a good salesperson in general - not one who likes to ask people to buy or even donate, but the thing is that I really love these books and it's just about sharing the love, without any ambition for quantity of sales or anything like that. It's something I feel comfortable with.

Oh, and did I mention how great it is to test the books with my girls? It's like having your own library. We already have our favourites, and I look forward to the many hours of booksharing that this little venture will bring to our house.

If you would like to order Barefoot Books through me, you can do so through my Marketplace, you can also keep in touch and receive special offers by liking my facebook page or signing up to my Barefoot Newsletter (simply send an email to barefoot @ cartside.co.uk; leaving out the spaces in the address).

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

All Rejoice and Celebrate Bilingualism! The May Carnival is here

Today I'm delighted to host the May Carnival of all things bilingual in the blogosphere. It warms my heart to see the community of bilingual bloggers growing and more and more bloggers joining in and exchanging their first hand experiences of bilingual (or multilingual) living. Nothing beats following the developing bilingual minds in so many different language settings, and to get a few tips here and there on what works and what doesn't, and how to make this long and exciting journey a successful, and above all, fun one.

So, without much further ado, here is this month's carnival menu:

There are sunny Arabic spells in the house of Babelkid, with much rejoicing at the breakfast table after a house move.

Quite au contrario to Babelkid's all Arabic surprise, Multilingual Mama asks the question Do you Franglais? when she considers what code switching means to her. Franglais , Spanglish or Denglish - it's all rather complicated when, how and why we mix languages and what it all means.

Mains: Words and Numbers
Fiona of Living in the Land of Chocolate has to give her children the run down of bad words when they come home from Kindergarten having read a certain inappropriate English swear word. In Switzerland!

18 months old Aleksander is starting out with his very first words in the trilingual home of German in the Afternoon - but he's not one to do a song and dance when pushed!

Spanglish Baby looks at the 5 biggest obstacles when raising bilingual children. They are based on a facebook question and responses by parents and I'm sure there's nobody who can't relate to at least one of these barriers and benefit from this post's tips how to overcome them.

Busy as a Bee in Paris shares 4 guidelines for immersing your child in a new language - a great checklist to see if you're doing it right or if there is some room for improvement.

On my own blog, I compiled 10 random reasons for embarking on a bilingual journey; for the benefit of the undecided, the wavering, and the unsure. Of course there are many more and you can still add your own favourites!

Dessert: A bit of past, present and future

Intrepidly Bilingual tells the story of how they became an OPOL family. Or an almost OPOL family who then decided to become a slightly stricter OPOL family thanks to the trials and tribulations of the one parent one language method. It's a story that I'm sure many can relate to - as for us, we've so been there!

Crankymonkeys in London finds that she's still no diamond when she ponders what living with her Estonian mother means to her, though it does heaps for her children's Estonian!

For now, there won't be any French classes at the maison, as Bringing up Baby Bilingual concludes. Being 7 months pregnant is not quite conducive to a big push for setting up immersion classes for other little French speakers in your neighbourhood! But there's always another time, a better time to make a great idea happen.

And with coffee: some philosophical thoughts and how to introduce a different culture to any child

Alexandra's guest post on Bilingue per Gioco on Homelessness of a Third Culture Kid gives an insight into what it is like to grow up between cultures and languages, what it means to the child and how we, as parents, can better empathise and support our children.

Chasing my Rainbow Baby has become an anthropologist in her own home and is all ready for some field work.

Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting gives great ideas on how to introduce African culture to children in Children's Guide to African Culture. Bilingual or not, children are keen to learn about other cultures, and even if you can't raise your children bilingually, Mamapoekies has great tips how to familiarise children with another, in her case, African culture.

If you are interested in keeping in touch with all things bilingual, head over to the Bilingual Blogging Carnival Page where you can sign up for the newsletter, read all the bilingual carnivals to date, find details on how to submit your post to the next host or offer to host the carnival in the future. I hope you enjoyed this month's carnival and see you at Bilingual Russian next month!



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